While growing up in a military family, Roland Griffith was also surrounded by members of the military who served as his leaders in youth programs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The influence of these leaders inspired him to join the United States Army. Now, as the operations officer for the Army ROTC program at BYU, which is operated by the BYU Marriott School of Business, Griffith is committed to being a similar role model for his cadets.
Griffith began his career in the Army at the United States Military Academy at West Point and commissioned as an Infantry officer after graduation. He first served as a rifle platoon leader at Fort Lewis, Washington. As a young platoon leader, he again felt the influence of mentors around him when noncommissioned officers trained him in his new role. After serving as a platoon leader, Griffith became an executive officer, which meant he was second in command of his company and dealt primarily with maintenance and logistics.
Following his three years as a platoon leader and executive officer, Griffith transitioned to his current career field in the Army: civil affairs. As part of his career transition, he earned a master’s degree of science in engineering management from Missouri University of Science and Technology in 2010.
The next step in his career included spending 10 years in an airborne unit at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. “Part of the unit’s job included jumping out of airplanes, so I’ve done that 46 times,” Griffith says. “Of course, jumping out of a plane is way fun but even more enjoyable is the amount of teamwork required to conduct a successful airborne operation. You have to put trust in your equipment and training and, above all else, your teammates.”
While stationed at Fort Bragg, Griffith served on three deployments: first as team leader to Afghanistan in 2012–13, then to Jordan in 2014–15, and most recently to northeastern Syria from 2018–19 as a company commander. On these deployments, Griffith worked closely with local communities and leaders to provide a number of resources, such as education and essential services to counter violent extremist organizations.
One of Griffith’s most impactful experiences in the military was witnessing the recovery process of one of his team leaders, John Turnbull, who was severely wounded in January 2019. An explosion in Syria left Turnbull completely blind. “I’ve watched the miracle of his recovery, which has been a special experience,” Griffith shares. “Watching one of my teammates fight for his life and seeing our team rally behind and support him motivates me and impacts the way I think about leading others. I recognized the Lord’s hand in this man’s life, which was humbling and inspiring.”
Similarly, Griffith notices the Lord’s hand in his own life and believes that he came to BYU Marriott in 2020 thanks to divine intervention. His journey to Provo started years earlier when he met his wife, Liz, on a blind date during a visit to Utah while he was stationed at Fort Bragg. The couple was married in October 2017. Shortly after their marriage, Griffith deployed to Syria. Once he returned, his leaders at Fort Bragg felt he needed to live closer to his wife.
“My amazing leaders said, ‘We have to fix your situation,’ so they went out of their way to help move me into my current assignment,” Griffith explains. “I believe the Lord paved the way, and the timing was perfect. I feel so lucky to be here in Provo.”
Now that he is assigned to BYU Marriott, Griffith expresses gratitude for the school’s positive influence on the ROTC. "BYU Marriott is so supportive of not only the Army ROTC cadets but of all students,” he says. “I am so impressed with how devoted people at BYU Marriott are to helping students. Instead of merely saying, ‘Let’s give you an education and degree,’ faculty actually find ways to provide students with transformative experiences.”
Currently a first-year executive MBA student at BYU Marriott himself, Griffith experiences this support firsthand. “I’ve witnessed that when you go through a program at BYU Marriott, you leave a much better person than when you first arrived,” he says. “I love being a part of an outstanding, top-notch cohort with classmates who are fantastic examples and the opportunity to learn together from such incredible faculty.”
He also feels grateful to contribute to student learning and experiences as an operations officer for the ROTC. One of Griffith’s most exciting moments at BYU Marriott so far was working with BYU administration and faculty to coordinate the Utah National Guard landing three Blackhawk helicopters on campus during the fall 2021 semester. “Many amazing people at BYU worked with the ROTC to make this event happen, and I was so happy to be a part of that effort. Seeing three actual Blackhawks in person was super cool for the cadets,” he says.
Looking back on his youth when he admired his own leaders in the military, Griffith has come full circle. He loves helping students become the next generation of leaders and mentors. “I truly believe that our students are phenomenal—the best in the country. I feel so honored to be a part of their process and help guide the trajectory of their careers,” he says.
Writer: Sarah Calvert